When it came time to upgrade liquid filling of 1- to 4-oz glass and plastic bottles ease and speed of changeover was at the top of Humco's shopping list. That's because Humco Holding Group produces more than 350 SKUs mostly under its own label. The Texarkana TX firm found what it needed in a sanitary piston filler from Serac (Carol Stream IL). "Our niche is over-the-counter pharmaceuticals 'wets and dries' as they call it here in the business" says president Tom DeGreve. "Rubbing alcohol hydrogen peroxide epsom salts-that's what we fill. Among our competitors few have a line of products as wide as we offer. Our strategy is to be as competitive as we can on the high-volume products where we have no shortage of competition while still offering such a wide range that we can maintain our position as a sort of 'one-stop shopping' supplier." Humco typically runs a product for two or three days two shifts per day. But when it's time to change there's no time to lose and that's where the Serac filler comes in. "Our previous filler required two or three people and up to four hours before it was cleaned and ready for a new product" says DeGreve. "Now it takes less than two hours practically unattended even though some of our products like iodine for example are difficult to clean. And that will improve as we get further along the learning curve. We're still finalizing some of our settings things like detergent strengths and rinsing times." Maintenance tasks and downtime are significantly reduced too says DeGreve because the machine is built without O-rings or seals in the product path including the piston cylinder measuring assembly. The precision-ground stainless steel is machined to function on a metal-to-metal basis. Eliminating seals and O-rings is especially significant because some of Humco's products like clove or cinnamon oils can react with the rubber-based materials used to make seals. "The 16-head vacuum pressure filler we had before had something like four O-rings per filling head" says DeGreve. "The mechanical motion of the fill cycle caused steady friction that wore the O-rings out. It was made much worse because some of our products attacked the rubber-based material of the O-ring and caused it to swell. That only hastened their disintegration."